David Lowery's UGA study compiles Top 40 list of brands supporting piracy

At the beginning of this year, USC's Annenberg Innovation Lab head Jonathan Taplin conducted a story to find out just how much money from advertising is supporting pirate websites, and who were the biggest supporters

Unsurprisingly, Google was ranked number two of the top ten ad networks that placed the most ads on pirate websites.

Now everyone's favorite Trichordist Camper Van Beethoven Cracker UGA Professor David Lowery has conducted another study. This one, by the way, was done in his official professorial role at University Of Georgia's Terry College. It didn't set out to see the rankings but the frequency of advertising by brands on such sites.

David writes:

I started with a dozen or so web searches on Google for my own music. Why my own music? Since the only way that I could 100% verify that some obscure website hosted on a black hat server in Malaysia wasn’t legitimate I had to use my own catalogue. That way I could be sure these sites were in fact not licensed to sell or stream my music...

For the purposes of the study, the students looked for sites that had "traditional" online advertising (i.e. banners as opposed to referral sites from the same company masquerading as different ads). They also looked for which brands were showing the most ads.

They chose 4 sites, which I won't link. One is Grooveshark and another is Mp3 Skull. It hsouldn't be needed to point out that none of these sites has paid to license Lowery's music.

And if you consult third party sources like The Google Transparency Report you’ll see that these sites consistently generate high numbers of “DMCA take down notices...” Grooveshark is a very popular streaming website and has recently lost a major court case for mass copyright infringement.

For two weeks, Lowery had 8 students in his class go about their normal searches online. No cookies or caches were cleared. Four times a day they searched for a Billboard Hot 100 song or artist on said sites. For music geeks, this song was Pink's "Give me A Reason."

The students looked at the page and noted the ads. On a sample of 1,851 page views, this is the ranking of top advertisers from April 10-26, 2013. On Trichordist, Lowery has posted all findings including breadth and adjusted frequency, because in addition to a professor and musician he is thorough. But for tour purposes I'm leaving it at ranking, brand name and the number of times the ads were seen.

1 Country Financial 148
2 Become.com 89
3 AT&T 60
4 Champion roofing 51
5 State Farm 47
6 Target 39
7 Georgia Natural Gas 31
8 AAA 29
9 Rooms To Go 33
10 Allstate 20
11 Transunion 24
12 H&R Block 18
13 Pirate storm 26
14 Quibids.com 13
15 Coca-Cola (American Idol) 16
16 The new york times 16
17 One River Place (Athens GA) 94
18 Progressive insurance 22
19 Xfinity 15
20 Nationwide 15
21 SunTrust 14
22 The Gold Coast Casino 11
23 Norton 9
24 Just fab boots 14
25 Wartune 10
26 Bing 5
27 Dominos 15
28 Karaoke Pink 28
29 Charter 7
30 Google chrome 12
31 Sea World Busch Gardens 6
32 Victoria's Secret 11
33 Royal Caribbean 11
34 Publix 7
35 Dodge dart 20
36 Bodies The Exhibition 10
37 The Heist 16
38 HTC 5
39 Pull-ups 5
40 Spirit Airlines 5

Clearly Georgia Natural Gas, Publix and SunTrust reflect the region where the searches occurred. No doubt you'd be served up others if you live in another part of the country But really? The New York Times? I know the newspaper industry has collapsed but it didn't realize it had come to this.

For a sample week, this is quite alarming. Imagine the impressions in one year? And just like direct response advertising, the success rate only depends on single digit percentage points.

But isn't it strange that Dodge Dart, Victoria's Secret, AT&T and the like are advertising in illegal places. But I guess they figure why not, because money. Right? Maybe. But the more Taplin and Lowery (and Adland, for that matter) calls you out on it, the greater the chances your reputation, and your brand will take a hit.

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On Scribd, some of the major advertisers are AT&T, Dell, Laser Spine Institute, Meijer (supermarkets).